By Lincoln Depradine
LONDON, England -- The Grenada team at the London Olympics has been hit by another injury.
Kanika Beckles was scheduled to compete in the opening round of the Women’s 400 meters on Friday but withdrew because of an injury.
Earlier in the week, it was officially announced that potential 400 meter medal contender, Rondell Bartholomew, had withdrawn from participation in the games because of an injury he has been nursing for some time.
“Rondell was in Germany undergoing treatment for a hamstring and the doctor concluded that he should withdraw from all races this year to allow his injury to heal. His leg is not fully healed and he risks rupturing the muscle again if he runs,” said Veda Bruno-Victor, General Secretary of the Grenada Olympic Committee.
The only Grenadian Olympian to compete so far is Esau Simpson.
He won his preliminary round in the Men’s 100m Freestyle in swimming in a personal best of 53.26 seconds. His previous best was 53.85.
However, Simpson did not advance to the semifinals of the Freestyle.
Kirani James, currently Grenada’s most celebrated athlete, is one of two Grenadians who will take to the tracks for the first time on Saturday.
Grenadian journalist Michael Bascombe, who is part of the IMC’s Caribbean commentary team covering the Olympics, reports that James will run out of Lane 6 in Heat 2 of the Men’s 400m. The race is scheduled for around 5:35 Saturday morning, Eastern Caribbean Time.
California-based Track & Field News has listed the Grenadian World champion ahead of the defending Olympic champion, American LaShawn Merritt, as the favourite to win gold in the 400. The gold medal final race is scheduled for Monday, August 6.
Grenadians are expected to gather at Cuthbert Peters’ Park to view Saturday’s race.
Cuthbert Peters’ Park is also one of four venues that will host a public viewing of Monday’s 400 meter final from 11 a.m. The other venues are the National Stadium, Morne Rouge Playing Field and Grenville Car Park.
Other than James, the other Grenadian competing on Saturday is Paul Williams. He runs a Men’s 100 meter heat from about 7.30 a.m.
The 10 athletes who were selected to represent Grenada at the Olympics were James, Bartholomew, Williams, Beckles, Simpson, Kurt Felix, Andrea St. Bernard, Joel Redhead, Neisha Bernard-Thomas, and Janelle Redhead.
Brief profiles of athletes
Kirani James, Grenada’s Sportsman of Year for both 2010 and 2011, began winning international track meets at the age of 14.
The teenager from Gun Battle in Gouyave, St John, is one of the world’s most recognizable athletes. In fact, Track & Field News, known globally as "the bible" of the sport, has ranked Kirani as the number one quarter miler in the world.
Thus far, his greatest exploit – which sparked jubilant celebrations among Grenadians at home and abroad – was his 400 meter victory at the World Championships in South Korea. He won in 44.60 seconds.
Nine days later, he bettered his World Championship time. At a Diamond League race in Zurich, Switzerland, he outran his competitors in a personal best and a new Grenada national record of 44.36 seconds.
Rondell Bartholomew is a track and field sprinter who also specializes in the 400 meters. He has represented Grenada at two World Championships in Athletics. His personal best for the event is 44.65 seconds.
He has won medals at junior level at the CARIFTA Games and Pan American Junior Championships. He helped set a Grenadian record of 3:04.69 minutes for the 4×400 meters relay in 2011.
Kurt Felix, who competes in the heptathlon, currently attends Boise State University in Idaho. He won the Men’s Heptathlon with a personal best of 5,771 points after seven events at the Boise State University Team Challenge at the Jackson Track in Nampo, Idaho. His previous best was 5,691 points at the same meet last February.
Felix won the long jump (7.66m), shot put (12.86m) and the high jump (2.14m). He was second in the 60m dash (7.11secs), third in the 60m hurdles (8.51 secs), third in the pole vault (4.45m) and fourth in the 1,000m (2:51.01).
Esau Simpson, 21, is a student athlete at university in Florida. He completed his secondary education at Presentation Brothers’ College with an award in chemistry and another as the school’s most outstanding swimmer.
Simpson, a two-time time finalist at the CARIFTA Swimming Championships and a swimmer with multiple OECS age group title wins, was chosen to represent Grenada at the 2009 and 2011 Swimming World Championship of FINA – the International Swimming Federation.
At the 2011 OECS Swimming Championships, Esau broke records in all the freestyle events.
At the moment, he is one of the top sprint swimmers on the Nova Southeastern University swim team. Esau is also among the top 50 athletes in the United States NCAA Division 2, swimming in his best events which are the 50 free and 100 free.
Andrea St Bernard is competing in Taekwondo at the London Olympics. A third degree black belt, Andrea has been representing Grenada at international sparring competitions since 2007.
She has competed in championships in the Caribbean and North America, including the 2008 Caribbean Open, winning a gold medal and also being named Caribbean MVP. Other Taekwondo medals have been won at the Toronto and US Open Tournaments.
St Bernard, who practices business law in Toronto, won a gold medal at the 2011Caribbean Taekwondo Championships.
Janelle Redhead’s competitive involvement in track and field began in her hometown of Gouyave as a primary school student at St John’s Anglican.
After setting Intercol records for St Rose Modern Secondary in the 100 and 200 meters, Janelle moved to Canada where she completed her secondary school education and also gained a track and field scholarship to attend South Plains College in Texas.
Redhead, who turned 22 last December 27, is a former bronze medalist at the World Track and Field Junior Championships.
She participated in last year’s World Athletic Championships in South Korea, reaching the semi-finals of the Women’s 200 meters in a time of 23.11 seconds.
Joel Redhead – brother of Janelle – is a track and field sprinter who specializes in the 200 and 400 meters. He represented Grenada at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. His best time in the 400 meters was a time of 46.20, set in 2011 in Clermont, Florida.
Neisha Bernard-Thomas is a middle distance runner who specializes in the 800 meters.
Her personal best is 2:00.09 minutes, achieved at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. This is the Grenadian record. She also holds the 1500 meters record, achieved in March 2008 in Baton Rouge.
Paul Williams is a 26-year-old from St Patrick. He’s in a field at the Olympics that includes Jamaican record-holder, Usain Bolt. Williams is a 100 meter specialist. He was born April 5, 1986.
Kanika Beckles’ track career was guided by one of Grenada’s best coaches, Denise Williams. After graduating from the St David’s Catholic Secondary School in 2008, Beckles attended Essex County College in New Jersey where she won numerous track awards. Beckles runs the 200 and 400 meters.